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Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 15:05 GMT
Virgin lottery bid due

Richard Branson and lottery balls Littlewoods may not bid, but Branson is likely to

Richard Branson is to put an end to speculation about a possible bid to run the UK's National Lottery.

The entrepreneur was meeting his team of advisers on Sunday evening in London to make the decision whether to go ahead with a bid.

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Fresh from a visit to India, where he announced new routes for his Virgin Airlines business, Mr Branson is hoping to add the lottery to his ever widening string of business interests.

If the go-ahead is given, it will be a huge relief for the UK Government, which had faced the prospect of current operator Camelot having an unchallenged run for the second seven year licence.

Virgin spokesman Will Witehorn said Mr Branson would announce his plans at a press conference on Monday morning.

His bid is likely to run under the title of The People's Lottery.

Machines removed

They have a formidable task on their hands to defeat Camelot, which has entered the race in partnership with the Post Office.

The contract will run from October 2001.

The National Lottery Commission has attempted to encourage rival bidders by ruling that the next licence holder must remove the current network of 30,000 lottery machines found in corner shops and supermarkets across the UK.

The regulator also said earnings for the next licence-holder would be linked to the amount raised for Good Causes instead of sales, as they are now.

The deadline for bids to run the lottery is the end of February next year, with selection taking place by the end of June.

In the five years it has been running there have been more than £25bn tickets sold and more than 900 millionaires created.

Camelot's profit take is currently restricted to 1% of sales.

Camelot has said it is on course to have raised £10bn for good causes when its licence expires in September 2001.

Mr Branson's not-for-profit lottery lost out to Camelot when the first licence was announced.

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See also:
12 Nov 99 |  The Company File
The rise, fall and rise of Camelot
12 Nov 99 |  UK
When is a cause a good cause?
30 Sep 99 |  The Company File
Lottery licence bids open

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